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Dr. Annika Schoemann

  "desperately sought!" 

   DE / EN

Dr. Mathias Listl

  "An Attempt at an Approach in Five Steps" 

   DE / EN

Andreas Baur

  "Caught in rooms for interpretation" 

   DE / EN

Sven Beckstette

  "JAK of all trades—on the relationship of screenplay, props, and setting in the film Soul Blindness by atelierJAK" 

   DE / EN

Dr. Ulrike Pompe-Alama

  "Soul Blindness—perception stripped off its meaning" 

   DE / EN

Nils Büttner

  "active competition, or: simply JAK"

   DE / EN

Dr. med. Julia Ehmer

  "psychiatric report about JAK"

  DE / EN



Dr. Mathias Listl

Digital Content Management, Kunsthalle Mannheim 


JAK - just these three capital letters, strung together without spacing. With the exception of the "atelier" ("studio") suffix, which appears again and again but is equally unhelpful, no further information is given about the female or male artist(s) of a whole cosmos of works in the most diverse genres, sizes, media and materials. But what does JAK mean? What is behind this designation? Is it the name of an artist - but why is there no accompanying "E" or "K" that would make the three capitals a familiar first name? Or is it an abbreviation that refers to one or more real persons?

JAK quite deliberately plays with this irritation, which is not further disclosed here either, and which stands in direct contrast to the cult of the individual trademark and form of expression, as it has decisively shaped not only the perception of art but also the trade in it from the early modern period to the present day. For us, too, artistic production is still too strongly linked with the idea of the genius working alone to be able to simply brush aside this confusion that inevitably arises with JAK - even if such artist synonyms are no longer rare today. Similar to the many attempts since the 1950s to create a "work without an author", the declared aim in this case is not to place the person of the artist at the centre of interest, but rather, conversely, to focus on his or her work and to give it full attention.

Since an approach via the female or male artist(s) does not lead anywhere here and ultimately ends in a dead end, it is necessary to read JAK instead via - precisely - the work - the overarching oeuvre as well as the individual art object - and to progressively learn to understand it, even if not always to fully comprehend it. Similar to the question of the individual artist(s), however, one encounters the next hurdle here that denies all too easy access. For even with regard to the autonomy of JAK's individual works, it is ultimately impossible to draw such a clear delineation as to what extent the respective object is to be considered an autonomous form of expression in its own right. Overarching considerations, games with levels, dependencies and references tie the individual works, made in very diverse media and materials, too clearly together. At the same time, however, the small in the large always retains its autonomous expressiveness and can - seen without the superordinate context - also exist for itself. This paradox, which is only apparent, is particularly striking in the group of Indiscribable Scenes, whose smallest, almost microscopic unit consists of long rectangular cubes of epoxy resin measuring only a few centimetres. Inside these transparent miniature objects, which are in fact exactly the size of glass microscope slides, there is an acrylic miniature painted on overhead transparency. These filigree finger exercises, in turn, represent the intellectual starting point of another complex of works. The scenes captured on them are in fact sketches for film scenes and refer to the Soul Blindness project, which is based in this medium and has been continuously pursued by JAK since 2013, and which Annika Schoemann discusses in detail in her essay. In parallel, however, the individual epoxy resin cubes sometimes also enter into a connection with their fellow species and join together to create the most diverse formations, which are also repeatedly reassembled from presentation to presentation. Like crystal chandeliers, which consist not only of white but also of different coloured glass elements, these structures can hang down from the ceiling or grow up from the floor as sculptural objects in a more compact compound. The path, however from the small to the large is not a one-way street. That JAK also goes in the opposite direction is shown, for example, by individual props from the aforementioned film project, which - isolated from this context and transformed into an oversized form - can appear as an autonomous work of art. Finally, the same applies to Werkgruppe I (Work Group I), whose individual works are the result of the meticulous joining together of wafer-thin aluminium paper, brought exactly into the desired position in each case. The starting base for these compositions, which are not set on edge on the black ground but on its glazing and which develop an extreme spatial depth effect precisely through this artifice, are in turn backdrops, protagonists or props taken from the film Soul Blindness. However, the question of which individual work determines which other, what emerged from what, is often idle to answer and ultimately irrelevant before the final result of a mutually interpenetrating overall œuvre by JAK that can be expanded at any time with new offshoots and play-offs.

What already becomes clear from the few works just mentioned is another essential feature of her/his - or their? - work. In addition to jumping back and forth between different artistic genres - from illustrative drawing and painting to sculptural, installation, text-related and kinetic works and film - another essential characteristic of JAK is the experimentation with different materials and artisanal techniques. Ceramic objects, photographs, light and sound are used again and again, as are the aforementioned, filigree aluminium paper, wood, acrylic glass or - as the source material for writing-based works - printed, mostly significantly processed text. Thus, JAK eludes all too easy categorisation and unambiguous classification, not only through its obscuring name, which can lead one down the wrong path, but above all through the versatility and changeability of its artistic expression.


This lack of clarity and ambiguous attribution is ultimately also tangible in the recurring theme of Soul Blindness, which is also picked up in the title of this exhibition and runs through JAK's œuvre like a red thread. This state of illness, which can be translated as soul blindness, describes a cognitive disorder whose patients perceive visual, auditory or olfactory sensory impressions, but are unable to assign them their respective, generally attributed meaning or designation. It is not only the main protagonist of the film project Soul Blindness who suffers from this disease, which is described in technical language as associative agnosia. We as viewers of JAK's works - it seems - are also put into this state of permanent ambiguity and ignorance about our sensory impressions. Many things are suspended not only when we look at them or enter them, an impression that is often additionally reinforced in the installation works by the use of mirrors, a strong shade of green or a sophisticated lighting regulation. But even when reflecting more closely on JAK's works, one ends up in all too unclear realms. The described in-between or grey areas of supposedly clear but suddenly wavering definitions of artistic production and working methods open up before one and generate questions that unsettle fundamental issues.

Thus, it is precisely this indistinctness, the blurring and negation of all-too-easy comprehensibility and the persistence in or fathoming of intermediate areas that distinguishes JAK. At the same time, there is a conceptual rigour and clarity that has been consistently maintained over the years, which makes such a complex, interwoven work with numerous cross-references possible in the first place. Even if JAK cannot be clearly deciphered, it is perhaps best to approach his cosmos precisely in this fuzziness and ambiguity.  

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